Founder of Repl.it
I was raised in Jordan and moved to the United States when I was 24.
Since I was a child, I’ve been enamored by computers. And if you like computers, you’ll often find yourself coming across references to Silicon Valley. So I always knew this was going to be the place.
Before coming here, I was a software engineer in Amman, Jordan. My father worked in the government, and I didn’t come from a particularly wealthy family, nor do engineers in Jordan command high salaries as they do in Silicon Valley. So I left everything and came to the United States with nothing but credit card debt. Like every immigrant, I struggled, but today, I want to write about why I believe the American dream lives on.
Let’s start with my first job in the United States: as an engineer at Codeacademy in New York. They didn’t care that I didn’t go to college here - in fact, most of the team didn’t. Very few cultures reward talent the way America does.
After Codeacademy, I landed a job at Facebook, building React. During this time, I was impressed with the work culture - everyone gives it their best and is forgiving - no one makes fun of your accent or treats you differently because you’re different. America celebrates weirdness. The culture here values authenticity, and if you're authentic and open about your failures, you'll get a second and a third chance.
In 2016, I founded Repl.it. There are many countries where you can go and build startups, but there’s only perhaps one country where immigrants go and build startups - the United States of America. That’s not because they have particularly favorable visa policies or that capital is accessible - it’s the culture of optimism. People believe that tomorrow will be better than today. They don't know where progress will come from, but that's why they're open to differences. So when we started up, even unbelievers encouraged us. And because people are optimists, they take a much longer-term view. This thinking allows companies such as Repl.it to form and execute towards audacious missions.
If you take a step back and look at my story: I immigrated to the United States, got a job, then worked at one of the most defining companies of our decade, and then started a unicorn. All of this in under 10 years.
Since the pandemic, there’s been a lot of talk on why America is falling behind. To my fellow immigrants - don’t give up on America yet.
I am an immigrant, and I believe in the American dream.